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Catherine Kassenoff faced off against hardened criminals and gang members as a federal prosecutor, and beat breast cancer twice, but said the broken New York family court system would be what killed her.
In a letter posted to Facebook on May 27, the Westchester, NY, mother of three announced she was scheduled to die by assisted suicide in Switzerland later that day.
“It is with a profound heartbreak … that I am writing my last post ever. Today, I will be ending my own life … In the last four years of my life I have woken up every day to a nightmare like no other,” she wrote in her public suicide note.
Catherine, 54 and an attorney who once served as special counsel to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, wrote that she’d recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer — but blamed her decision to die then, and by assisted suicide, on ongoing alleged abuse by her ex-husband and a messy custody battle.
A Westchester family court decision had cut her off from contact with her three daughters, ages 9, 12, and 13.
Despite having no criminal history, mental health issues, or history of substance misuse, Catherine claimed, the court took her home, her dogs, and her life savings and continued to deny her visits with her children.
“I cannot survive this torment and the grief that comes from such a prolonged separation from my children,” she wrote. “The court system did this to me … It is a predatory system that functions in darkness — through ‘gag orders’ like the one in my case, through a publicly-inaccessible docket, through a closed courtroom, and through ex parte ‘temporary’ orders that are in place for years.”
Friends who saw Catherine’s alarming social media post say they reached out immediately.
In May 27 text messages seen by The Post, Catherine’s friend and colleague Jonathan Davidoff pleaded with her not to go through with the suicide, to which she replied “Can’t put my kids through this any longer Jonathan. Please fight the fight I cannot.”
Cobie Jane, a friend and a mother also fighting the family court system after being cut off from her children in 2018, described Catherine as “laser-focused on how to support her girls.”
She said she wrote to Catherine right after receiving an email version of the suicide note and that Catherine wrote back: “I am so happy to hear from you and so sad for both of us. Please use my story to get change accomplished. Please don’t use it to give up too. I feel so completely connected to you.”
No one The Post spoke to has heard from Catherine since.
According to Ms. Magazine, attorney Wayne Baker, the executor of Catherine’s estate, said he is awaiting definitive confirmation of her death, which could take four to six weeks. Like many of Catherine’s friends, he believes she did decide to die in Switzerland because she felt she had no other options left.
“Catherine once said someone is going to have to die before they take these things [alleged abuse by the family court] seriously,” said her good friend and self-described fellow survivor and advocate, Elizabeth Harding Wedinstein. “Catherine was a warrior. I hope they’re paying attention now.”
Catherine and Allan Kassenoff married in 2006. He filed for divorce in 2019.
Friends of Catherine said the former couple’s problems started well before the divorce proceedings began.
In videos that now have over 10 million views on TikTok, influencer @therobbieharvey chronicles Allan’s alleged verbal and emotional abuse toward Catherine and their daughters.
In one video Allan is heard shouting “I hate you” at Catherine. He also calls her a “fat, old loser.”
In another disturbing video, a young girl can be heard crying in the background as Allan says he refuses to take his daughter to school: “Take your daughter. I’m not taking her. She’s spoiled and I’m not taking her. She will be punished by not going today.”
He continues about his daughter: “I’m not dealing with her anymore. I will no longer take her to activities over the weekend. I will no longer do nice things for her. She will be treated the way everyone else is.”
The Post has asked Allan’s lawyer for comment on the videos.
Catherine’s final Facebook message included a now-defunct Dropbox link that contained thousands of court filings and numerous legal documents, medical records, and videos, including the videos used in the TikToks.
She explained that the contents of these files prove she did nothing wrong and maintained that her children were taken away as a result of “unfair rulings” “a disgraced custody evaluator,” a money-motivated attorney for the children, and the court favoring the “monied party.”
Before her alleged death, Catherine was successful in proving some of her allegations about the dysfunctional court proceedings.
She filed a complaint of misconduct against Marc T. Abrams, the custody evaluator who recommended that her ex-husband have sole custody of the girls, resulting in Abrams’ removal from the Mental Health Professional Certification Committee, State of New York, Appellate Division, Supreme Court, First, and Second Judicial Departments as a mental health professional.
During the proceedings, photos surfaced of the judge presiding over the case officiating Abrams’ wedding. Catherine called out this potential bias and conflict of interest, and Judge Lewis Lubell recused himself from the case.
Carol Most, the attorney for the children, was also dismissed from the case after Catherine sued her for misconduct.
The court also denied Most a large portion of the $270,000 she billed the Kassenoffs for services.
According to Ms., Catherine had gone from having extremely limited visits with her daughters to longer unsupervised ones.
The magazine reported that Catherine was arrested in January 2022 for violating a protective order and approaching one of her daughters.
Afterward, she was let go from her job at the governor’s office.
All charges were later dismissed.
In March 2023 the family’s therapist issued a report urging the court to give Catherine more time with her daughters, according to a report in the Dropbox files.
Despite all the new information in her favor, a new forensic evaluator, as Ms. reported, “rubber-stamped disgraced Abrams’ old, erroneous report stating Catherine was manipulating her daughters.”
As of May, Catherine was still unable to see her children.
In Catherine’s parting statement, she wrote, “Their father has spent years and millions of dollars — over $3 million — to eliminate me from our girls’ lives … He will never relent … As long as I am alive and want to see them, they will be damaged over and over again with every attempt I make. What is the point of that? The last thing I want to do is make my own children suffer.”
Allan issued a statement to The Post via his attorney Gus Dimopoulous. It reads, in part:
“At every stage of this four-year custody dispute, the court system has acted responsibly and thoroughly. Following a neutral forensic evaluator’s assessment, the court ordered an immediate order granting their father sole legal and physical custody. The court also issued an urgent order of protection against Ms. Kassenoff eliminating unsupervised interactions with the children based on what they observed when they were with their mother … While it is always difficult limiting a parent’s access to their children, given the circumstances of this case, it was found to be in the best interest of the children to take these steps urgently. The children have been in our client’s care for 3 ½ years and they are safe and healthy.”
Greenberg Traurig, the law firm where Allan works as an attorney, issued a statement saying they’re conducting an internal investigation while the father is taking a voluntary leave of absence to focus on his family.
At a vigil for Catherine held at Stanz Cafe in Larchmont, NY, on Monday night, friends, court reform advocates, and over a dozen other mothers who say they are also victims of the family court vowed to seek justice — saying her alleged death demonstrates the need for an immediate investigation into the New York family court system.
Wedinstein, who organized the event, said she believes she and Catherine were sent here to help reform the courts. “Judges are kidnapping children from safe, protective parents,” she said. “We must stop this!”